Today, I really want to talk about email, because I see people everywhere having the same issue with email that I had. I used to be REALLY addicted to email. When I use to wake up in the morning, first thing I would do is check my email on the phone. After sitting at my desk, I would open my email tab and leave it up all day. At night, I would habitually pull out my phone to see if a new email came in.
It was like I was a drug addict always needing a fix. I couldn't do it anymore.
One day, I was watching a video and the gent talking said something that kicked off my intervention.
Your email is someone elses TODO list for you.
Holy crap. That hits home. But think about it! Our email serves a couple purposes:
Informational. Reservations reminders, events coming up, someone's address or phone number. These emails have a purpose, but it's not necessary that you act on them immediately. This email totally falls into that category. Gmail categories these under Social, Forums, and Updates.
Request followup. Let's say you ask someone to provide some information. "Hey Kevin, here is the powerpoint you asked for." Remember, if you sent the request for something, you've injected a TODO into someone's list.
Promotional. People try to sell you stuff, but legitimate. Amazon does this a lot. "Hey Kevin, noticed you were looking at chainsaws. Here's a great list of popular ones online."
Spam. It's meat, in a can.
Email is also asynchronous. That means when I send an email, it can get a response within five minutes or 5 months. It's safe to send some emails and close the tab! It's also a false expectation of others to think you're going to respond to an email within a few minutes.
I want to share a couple tips for how I broke my email addiction:
I turned off email notifications on my phone
This is groundbreaking! I was so programmed to look at my phone whenever it beeeped, it was maddening. The phone could even be on the other side of the house, and that beep would cause me to stop what I was doing and hike to get it. For what? A statement from the cell phone company. Not worth it.
This also had the side effect of increasing battery life of my phone. Since it wasn't consistently checking for email, I was getting more battery life. Did you know if don't touch a phone all day, it'll only use like 5% of it's battery?
I limited email time to twice a day
In the morning, I put together a todo list for the day. Part of that is checking email. Since email is a todo list from others, it makes sense for me to look at my email, determine what needs to be responded to, and add it to my list. Some email will be immediate responses. Why add them to the list if all I need to respond with "yes" or "no"?
Next, I'll check email towards the end of the day. Any email I sent in the AM might be responded too, unless they read this. It also gives me a chance to look at my todo list, and send emails that needed to be sent. It also prevents me from doing off the cuff emails that I would later not have sent.
Inbox zero should be a goal, not a requirement
A lot of folks talk about empty inboxes, and I agree to a point. I believe all emails that you need to follow up with some be archived off and added to your TODO list. My Todo program Todoist has an add-on that allows me to add emails to my todo list.
Sometimes you might just want to keep an email front and center. That's okay! But anything that isn't important should hit the trash or the archive.